Why You Should Oppose the Arnold Irrigation Piping Plan

For over 115 years the Arnold Irrigation District (AID) canal has been a resource for all residents of Deschutes County.  The benefits of the canal accrue not only to the agricultural patrons of AID but also to a wider range of residents, wildlife and plants.

The proposed piping of Arnold Irrigation Canal should alarm all citizens of Deschutes County and anyone who loves the outstanding scenic, cultural, and natural beauty of Central Oregon ecosystems. This historic canal runs from the Deschutes River over 13 miles to supply water to irrigators on the main canal and its laterals. It travels along the Wild and Scenic section of the Deschutes River past Lava Island Falls, past giant Ponderosas and wooded areas and out into farmland providing both water and scenic values to homeowners, district patrons, trees and wildlife that live and roam along the length of the canal.

  • We support the agricultural producers and irrigator patrons of the Arnold Irrigation District but we are opposed to the District’s proposed modernization plan.
  • We know there are alternatives to piping that have not been adequately addressed.
  • We believe in a full and open process where impacted property owners, District patrons, District stakeholders, and state and federal agencies can come together around a common goal.
  • We are deeply concerned over the District’s claim of a 50-foot right of way on each side of the canal, as well as their hydrology data and flawed project Benefit-Cost-Ratio.
  • We feel the people who rely on over 500 existing wells that will be negatively impacted by piping have not been adequately informed by the District.
  • We believe an Environmental Assessment is inadequate to address the broad impact and effects of the proposed project. This project needs further analysis, more public input, additional alternatives, and a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Arnold Canal: Modernization, Conservation, or Decimation?

Produced by SAC supporter and videographer Adam Brown and SAC supporters Deb & Jerry Rudloff

When it comes to the Arnold Canal, many are unaware of how integrated it is to where we live here in Bend, OR. This video is to help you experience what John Muir states: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” The Arnold Irrigation District (AID) has plans to pipe this canal that stretches 13 miles from the Deschutes River where it feeds in to the designated historic flume in the Deschutes National Forest. It meanders through 4 large neighborhood areas including a 1 mile stretch along the river (flume), Deschutes River Woods, Woodside Ranch, and then the Tekampe/Rimfire/Horse Butte neighborhoods. At the end of the canal and its various laterals, excess water is often just lost as it dumps onto the desert and over-watered fields.

There are many reasons why piping the canal is not the only option, is not the best alternative, and is not the most cost effective. However, many of these were interestingly not part of AID’s Environmental Assessment. We hope you find this video informative and that it gives you a much better understanding of how after over 100 years of the canal’s existence, there is a complete interdependence with the wildlife, plants, habitats, vegetation, and thousands and thousands of trees. We look into AID’s reasons for piping including: Seepage, evaporation, safety, conservation, as well as what we’ve also discovered about these factors and how this canal helps keep local wells functioning. Likewise, we also give you a glimpse of what will happen by showing you Tumalo after their canal was piped…complete destruction and devastation. Many homeowners are also experiencing their water wells drying up, which is another costly expense that has not been taken into consideration in the overall devaluation of properties. Thousands of trees cut down and many are now dying off due to no water, and this is just after a year of the Tumalo piping aftermath.

Water provides for the trees, and the trees provide habitat, shade and refuge for wildlife like: Eagles, cougars, foxes, raccoons, porcupines, frogs, ducks and more. In fact, the trees provide habitat for at least 57 species of birds. These trees that are along the miles and miles of the Arnold Canal not only create shade (as you’ll see) that causes the conservation of energy because of the lower temperatures in these areas, but they also provide carbon offset.

Arborists have said that trees that aren’t cut down in Arnold’s 50 to 150 foot right of ways along the canal, will more than likely be impacted because they are dependent on the water seepage from the canal. If the canal is piped, there won’t be seepage, so literally thousands and thousands of more trees will die as Tumalo is now experiencing. These ecosystems are being destroyed. The other alternatives to piping (like lining with gunite or shotcrete) would allow for some minimal water seepage which helps keeps everything alive and healthy, reducing the negative impact on local wells. In addition, these options are far less costly and still extremely effective (it’s already being implemented along certain portions of the canal with little to no maintenance nor damage after decades of it being put into place).

As you can see, this is far more than 100’s of neighbor’s backyards being threatened by the proposed piping, it’s about the interdependence of the canal’s water with the trees and forests, wildlife, riparian environments, conservation, and designated wild and scenic areas along the Deschutes River that will be barren and scarred forever. In addition, over 300 wells within 1 mile of the of the canal can expect to require deepening or complete redrilling as they dry up from not being filled by the canal’s water seepage. This includes municipal and private water supplies, homeowners and irrigators. Benjamin Franklin said: “When the wells dry, we know the worth of water.” What if this was your backyard and your property? The canal also gives the property owners the ability to help fight fires that we all know have become an all too familiar site during our hot summers in Central Oregon.

There is also a potential for the new spec rock and fill dirt roads that will be built to bury the canal pipe so they can bring in all their heavy equipment for piping and removing huge heritage pine trees. This road material may fall into and contaminate the Deschutes River near Lava Island Falls due to the steep and shorter hillsides where the flume runs along the river. This could have devastating effects beyond which have been researched.

The collateral damages could equal or exceed the expected cost of piping, and possibly double AID’s $87 million. The cost analysis just doesn’t support the piping and spending of tax payers’ money. Is it worth it when there are more effective, less invasive and less expensive possibilities?

Help us protect our canal, our wildlife, our trees, our waters, and our community.

Informational VIDEOS

This video shows in dramatic aerial drone imagery the natural beauty we stand to lose if the Arnold canal is piped, with a stark comparison to the devastation that piping has caused along Tumalo Irrigation District’s canal.

This video takes a look at the damage that piping will cause to the existing open canal ecosystem and offers some less damaging and less costly alternative solutions.

This video explains how Arnold Irrigation District plans to destroy the historic flume and build a mile-long, elevated road within the Wild and Scenic Area of the upper Deschutes River.

What Are Your Trees Worth?

Here’s a sample of how trees are valued. This is a simplified version of a professional arborist’s method and is not meant for legal or insurance purposes but it will give you a good idea of what your trees are worth.

In this simplified example we’ll use the Trunk Formula Technique (TFT) from the International Society of Arboriculture Guide for Plant Appraisal. The TFT calculation looks like this:

Reproduction Tree Cost = Largest Available Stock + Installation Costs

Basic Tree Reproduction Cost = (Cross-sectional area of the original tree) x ((Reproduction Tree Cost) / (Reproduction tree cross-sectional area))
where Cross-Sectional Area = Circumference2 x 0.0796

Depreciated Reproduction Cost = (Basic Tree Reproduction Cost) x (Condition) x (Functional limits) x (External limits)

For our example
A professional arborist will create maps, evaluate health, condition and form, and document values for all your trees. The report created can be used for legal and insurance claims. Images courtesy of Madison Tree Consulting LLC, Bend OR.

Reproduction Tree Cost: $380 for coniferous, $480 for deciduous (new 3″ diameter saplings, delivered and installed) PNW-ISA Species Ratings for Landscape Tree Appraisal.

Basic Tree Reproduction Cost: The new trees are 3″ diameter so you can multiply the cross sectional area by $56.76 ($380/7.068) conifer or $67.91 ($480/7.068) deciduous.

Condition you observed (health, structure, and form): 
Excellent: 1.0 – 0.9
Good: 0.9 – 0.75
Fair:  0.5  – 0.75
Poor:  0.30 – 0.50

Functional limits: trees located beneath power lines, near property lines, species that cause excessive litter, or species listed as invasive species. (For this example we are using 0.95)

External limits: City ordinances, easements, utilities, significant pests in the area, or site and climate changes. (For this example we assume your trees are in the Arnold Irrigation right of way and use 0.33)

Additional Costs:  Site clean-up, site changes, irrigation, and future maintenance (for this example we assume these costs are zero because Arnold Irrigation cleans up the mess).

To value your trees

These trees show some damage from deer antlers so the Condition is reduced from 0.75 to 0.60 in the chart below.

Evaluate the tree’s health and structure with binoculars for the crown and take a good close look lower down for dead limbs, bugs (sap dripping) and bark damage.

Measure the circumference of the tree at around chest height (4’6″) . Multiply that number by itself and then multiply that result by 0.7854. This is the cross-sectional area of your tree.

Now multiply that number by 57.76 for conifers (Pine or Juniper) or 67.91 for deciduous. This is what your tree is worth before depreciation, the Basic Tree Reproduction Cost.

The Depreciated Reproduction Cost (value of your tree) is the Basic Tree Reproduction Cost you just calculated multiplied by the observed condition, functional and external limits.

Circumference measured at chest heightCross Section AreaNew Tree FactorConditionFunctional LimitsExternal LimitsTree Value

Here are the appraisal calculations:

Tree 1 Conifer (Pine)
Cross section area = 712 x 0.0796 = 401.26
Basic Reproduction Cost = 401.26 x 57.76 = $23,177
Depreciated Reproduction Cost = $23,177 x 0.75 x 0.95 x 0.33  = $5,449
Additional Costs = 0 (Arnold Irrigation will remove and clean up)
Total Reproduction Cost = $5,449 +0 = $5,449
Appraisal Value = $5,400 (rounded to hundreds)
Tree 2 Deciduous (Aspen)
Cross section area = 192 x 0.0796 = 28.74
Basic Reproduction Cost = 28.74 x 67.91 = $1,952
Depreciated Reproduction Cost = $1,952 x 0.6 x 0.95 x 0.33 = $367
Additional Costs = 0 (Arnold Irrigation will remove and clean up)
Total Reproduction Cost = 0 + $367 = $367
Appraisal Value = $400 (rounded to hundreds)

Building a Flume

Bend Bulletin 11 May 1948 Arnold Irrigation district farmers will feel much more secure this season, with a new metal flume carrying water from the Deschutes river to the Arnold ditch. The new flume was rushed to completion this spring by R.P. Syverson, Bend contractor. Standing beside the flume after an inspection of the new installation are: Kenneth Slack, Arnold maintenance superintendent; George T. Murphy, chairman of the Arnold district board; Stanley Kebbe, bureau of reclamation inspector; J.W. Taylor, bureau construction engineer, C.C. Beam, staff member, and Syverson. On top of the flume is Pearl Anderson, ditchrider for the district.

Engineering News-Record April 10, 1924 Vol. 92, No. 15 pgs. 612, 613

Semicircular Wood Flume With Radius of 6 Ft.

Creosoted Staves and Section Giving Minimum Leakage Make for Long Life –
Crew Assembles 500 Ft. per Day

The Central Oregon Irrigation District recently found it necessary to replace the wooden box flume which carried the main canal along the canyon of the Deschutes River, three miles above the city of Bend, Ore. The box flume, a structure 18 ft. wide has been in use for 18 years, a period far beyond the usual life of this class of construction. As the flume box aged and decayed heavy leakage had rotted the substructure and weakened footings so that only by the most thorough patrol and heavy maintenance was the structure kept in service during recent years. Due to the necessity of supplying water to stock on certain sections in the project, the flume was operated at intervals during the winter season and the heavy accumulation of ice from the leaky box was an additional problem.

In planning the renewal of the flume detailed plans were prepared and bids called for on (1) a semicircular, creosoted wood-stave flume, and (2) a semicircular metal flume. After bids were received and compared the former class of construction was adopted. The total length of the flume to be replaced und the plans is 5,820 ft. During the winter and early spring of 1923, 3,920 ft. of the new flume was constructed, leaving 1,900 ft. of flume and reconstruction of the headworks for later attention.

Seimcircular 12-Foot Flume along the Deschutes River

The new semicircular flume is 12 ft. in diameter and the sides extend along the same circular curve to a height of 1 ft. above the diametral line. The depth of water is 6 ft. under the maximum flow and this upper foot, which ads 21 per cent to the area of the cross-section, is considered as freeboard. Due to the necessity of utilizing the headworks and following the location of the old flume, a rather high velocity was used in the semicircular section. The Hydraulic prop0erties are: Capacity, 656 sec.-ft.; slope, 2 in 1,000; N., 0.012; wetted perimeter, 18.85; velocity, 11.6 ft. per second.

The semicircular section has ideal hydraulic properties and careful attention was given to the curvature of the flume. The result is reported to be an exceptionally smooth flow with a minimum of disturbance even through the critical velocity for the depth of flow is approached.

The flume proper is made of Douglas fir staves of 1-½ in. finished thickness and about 5-½ in. width. The edges of the staves have no bead, being simply beveled to radius. These staves are only about two-thirds the thickness that would be used for a pipe of the same diameter, for the reason that the flume does not involve the arch action which exists in the upper half of a pipe when empty. After being milled the staves were given an 8-lb. pressure treatment of creosote. The staves are made tight by edgewise  pressure exerted by ½ in. mild steel rods, spaced 16 in. on centers and passing through the ends of 4×4 in. fir spreaders. The bands have rolled threads and are tightened by nuts and washers resting on top of the spreaders.

The flume is supported independently of the bands by cradles 8 ft. apart cut from fir timber to the exact outside diameter. When the staves were placed, only enough bands were put on to hold the flume proper in shape, the other being added later by crews that worked independently of the driving crew. The final cinching up was done just before the flume was placed in service.

“Buckling in” staves where sections join. Note cradle construction and staggered joints in staves. Bands are laid on each bent ready to be placed.

This cinching was done by the most experienced men, the intention being that the expected swelling of the staves would be allowed for without constant over-stressing. After the water was tuned in only a few leaks were found and these were readily eliminated by a little adjustment of the band pressure. The flume has now been in service for one full season and is reported to be almost absolutely watertight, a condition favorable to long life of the substructure and preservation of the footings.

In the portion of the flume reconstructed, a length of about 800 ft. of the old flume was eliminated and replaced by a concrete lined canal. This section is located in a through cut with a maximum depthe of 42 ft. The material traversed here is largely pumice, having a specific gravity less than that of water. In trimming up the slopes of this cut, the pumice removed was therefore floated out of the cut in the water of the canal.

Ice load on old flume caused by leaks.

In general the location follows a steep rocky canyon above the Deschutes River. The fact that the building of the substructure and the erection of the flume had to be done during the winter season when the flume could be kept out of service made the job rather difficult. On account of the availability of rock and the difficulty in bringing in concrete materials, rubble masonry was adopted for the piers. The flume substructure required a total of 340,000 ft. b.m. of Douglas fir. This material and subsequently the staves for the flume proper were delivered on the rim of the canyon at points several hundred feet above the flume, were lowered to the flume through wooden chutes and were subsequently distributed by hand or means of dollies. The substructure is of standard design and two types: on low portions 8-ft. spans are used without stringers, and on the higher portions of the substructure 16-ft. spans with stringers are adopted.

The construction crew on the flume barrel itself consisted of about twenty men who delivered the material from the chutes, placed the bands and staves, and drove the staves to tightness. After the work was organized this force, divided into two gangs, placed as much as 400 to 500 ft. in an 8-hour shift. At the work was done in two sections, it became necessary in places to join up adjacent sections by “buckling in” or springing the connecting staves into place after they had been accurately cut to the requisite length.

The wrecking of the old flume and building of piers and substructure was done under contract by the Warren Construction Co., Portland, Ore. The flume material, including cradles, wad furnished and the erection of the flume barrel was done by the Continental Pipe Manufacturing Co.

Barr & Cunningham, Portland, Ore., were consulting engineers for the district in charge of design and construction.

Measure Your Trees

It’s easy to measure the height of your trees with your arm and a stick.

First, measure the distance from your eye (or forehead) to your finger tips with your arm extended at eye height.  Mark a stick at that length (or break it to length if it’s too long).

Line up your mark with the bottom of the tree, stick vertical,
mark at eye height. This tree is 139 feet tall!

With your fingers, hold the stick out in front of you with your arm fully extended. The stick should be vertical and the mark or broken end held at eye height.

Walk away from the tree until the tip of the stick lines up with the top of the tree and the bottom of the stick lines up with the bottom of the tree. Try to keep the mark at eye height and rotate your eyes rather than your head when lining up.

The distance from your eye to the base of the tree is equal to the height of the tree.  Pace off the distance from where you’re standing to the base of the tree. Multiplying the number of steps by your step distance equals the height of the tree. Golfers will know the exact distance quickly.  If you don’t know your step distance, calibrate your steps by counting your paces while walking for a known distance (the width of your house for example). Your step distance is the distance walked divided by the number of steps.

Angle A = 45°
Angle D = 90°
Side AB = Side BC
Side AD = Side DE

A Brief History of Arnold Irrigation

Excepts from “The Arnold Project”
Toni Rae Linenberger
Bureau of Reclamation History Program
Denver, Colorado
Research on Historic Reclamation Projects

Originally, the Deschutes River was known by the Klamath tribe as, Kolamkeni Koke, or “place where the wild root kolam grows.” Many years later Lewis and Clark, referred to the river by another Indian name Toworenhiooks after sighting it on October 22, 1805. On their return trip the river was renamed Clarks River in honor of William Clark. A little more than a decade later the river was again renamed, this time essentially for good. When the area was trapped by French-Canadian fur traders, the river’s proximity to the falls of the Columbia River earned it the name Riviere des Chutes, or River of the Falls. The French place name was then shortened by the following generation of English-speaking pioneers into what we know the river as today, Deschutes.2

After the Civil War the Deschutes River Basin was settled primarily by ranchers who then used the Deschutes grasslands as pasture for their cattle during the summer months. The ranchers were succeeded by the timber men, who proceeded to make Bend, Oregon, the logging capital of Central Oregon. Between 1893 and 1908, a number of private ditch and irrigation companies claimed water rights from the Deschutes and its tributaries. The work of the ditch and irrigation companies prompted a shift in the local economy. The emphasis went from ranching to farming with the introduction of water. All of the local irrigation efforts succeeded in bringing state and Federal attention to under-irrigated Deschutes County. In 1914 and 1922 comprehensive surveys of the Deschutes Basin were released, by the State of Oregon and the Federal Government, most notably the United States Reclamation Service (USRS) in 1922. The second survey resulted in a $500,000 Federal appropriation for a storage works located at Benham Falls, eight miles south of Bend. After meeting with Arthur Powell Davis, then Director of the USRS, the land owners rejected Reclamation’s plan because under the province of the Reclamation Act all land over 160 acres would have to be sold at the government appraisal price.3

Even without federal help, small irrigation efforts were well underway. In 1922, the North Unit Irrigation District under terms of the Carey Act, which allowed for state supported irrigation efforts, built the Crane Prairie Dam. Located southwest of Bend, Crane Prairie is a log-crib, rockfill dam. The dam was responsible for irrigation of 40,000 acres in the Central Oregon, Arnold, and Lone Pine irrigation districts. Crane Prairie Dam was troubled by leaks and due to poor financing repairs were obstructed.4

The present Arnold Irrigation District was first organized as the Arnold Irrigation Company on December 27, 1904. The organization became official when incorporation papers were filed with the State of Oregon on January 9, 1905. In addition to the Arnold Irrigation District, three other small irrigation companies, the Pine Forest Ditch Company, the Bend Company, and the North Irrigation Company, diverted water through the main canal. The three irrigation companies were later absorbed by the Arnold Irrigation Company. Water was diverted from the Deschutes River a few miles south of Bend, Oregon, through the Arnold Canal for the lands to be irrigated south and east of that city.

Cross Section and Elevation of Simicircular Flume
Engineering News-Record April 10, 1924

The Arnold Diversion Dam is a wing type dam, which extends a short distance into the river from the east bank. The main structure of the distribution system is the one-mile long Arnold Flume which connected to the Arnold Canal. Originally, the main Arnold Canal was seventeen miles long, however since rehabilitation it has been reduced in length to about eleven miles. At the diversion, the Canal has a capacity of 120 cubic feet per second. The Project lands are served by approximately twenty-five miles of laterals.5

The canal system was built so that water could be delivered to lands selected by the stockholders; the result was an extended canal to serve scattered farms. The Deschutes River Decree of February 10, 1928, by the Circuit Court of Deschutes County, as modified by the Oregon Supreme Court, allotted to the Arnold Irrigation Company a diversion right of 150 c.f.s. for irrigation of 9,392 acres. Not all this acreage was under cultivation, however. Longtime residents on the Project estimate the maximum area under irrigation at any one time was about 5,000 acres.6 In 1960 there were 3,416 acres under irrigation rotation out of a total of 4,292 acres eligible for full irrigation service.

The Company was reorganized in 1936 as the Arnold Irrigation District (AID) and it assumed all obligations and accounts of the Arnold Irrigation Company.7


2. Lewis A. McArthur, Oregon Geographic Names, (5th ed.), (Portland, Ore.: The Press of the Oregon Historical Society, 1982), 218-9.

3. Denver, Colorado, National Archives and Records Administration: Rocky Mountain Region, Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, Record Group 115, “Annual Project History, Deschutes Project,”, Vol. 1, 1938, 7-8; Norman Delmar Kimball, The Impact of Economic and Institutional Forces on Farmer Adjustments in the North Unit Deschutes Project, (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, 1961), 16

4. Kimball, 1.

5. Project Data, 11.

6. Denver, Colorado, National Archives and Records Administration: Rocky Mountain Region, Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, Record Group 115, “Annual Project History, Arnold Project–Oregon,” Vol. 1, 1952-1960, 1.

7. “Annual Project History, Arnold Project–Oregon,” Vol. 1, 1952-1960, 1. 8. Project Data, 13..

What the Historic Flume will look like after AID piping

If you wonder what the Arnold Irrigation Districts plans to bury the Historic Flume will look like, here are two animations to illustrate the damage to the Wild & Scenic Deschutes River.

The AID proposal is to build an Oregon State spec. road on top of “engineered fill”. In places the fill and road will be over 18′ high. Some of the material will wind up in the river and all of the road will be completely visible to river rafters, kayakers, fishermen and hikers along the Deschutes river trail.

They are not even planning on doing an Environmental Impact Statement claiming there will be no impact.

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Or fill out a simple form to join Save Arnold Canal

The Fix Is In–It’s About The Money…

AID pretends to frame their proposed 13-mile piping project as a fish and threatened species habitat conservation effort—it’s not. This is AID’s federal funding money-grab designed to line their pockets and their out-of-state pipe supplier’s at severe cost to homeowners, the local environment and the upper Deschutes Wild and Scenic Area. Water losses to seepage are a big problem for the AID canal and reducing seepage would enable the District to keep more water in Wickiup reservoir to improve upper Deschutes habitat and help transfer water to farmers… BUT there are other ways to reduce seepage that don’t come with the extreme costs of a pipeline.

The list of problems with a pipeline is long:

–The historic flume near Lava Island Falls will be piped and buried like an earthen dam with a road on top, possibly altering the right channel of the river and leaving a monstrous visual scar to be seen from the River Trail.

–For owners abutting the canal (430), this will mean enduring a 7-year construction project extending an alleged 50’ right-of-way from the canal edge into their yards, a massive reduction in property values, a loss of many mature pine trees, other vegetation and the loss of wildlife that rely on this 115-year-old canal for water, habitat and travel.

–All residents in the 13-mile project area will be affected by the 7-year construction corridor and the loss of wildlife in the area as well as by new and unknown forced migration patterns of wildlife seeking water. And we all know that dead and dying vegetation, plus heavy equipment equals increased fire danger. –Owners in the broader area with wells can expect those to dry up and have to be deepened (if they meet code) or re-drilled entirely at the cost of $40/foot—average well depth in Bend is 500’.

What should be done instead? How do we save water, help farmers and improve threatened species habitat in the upper Deschutes?

Line the canal to greatly reduce seepage—don’t pipe it. Leave the historic flume alone, it’s not the problem. Consider non-structural solutions like water banking, on-farm improvements, winter stock run reductions & irrigation season modifications.

There are a variety of different lining techniques that greatly reduce seepage for the sake of keeping water in Wickiup reservoir but they don’t stop seepage completely, like a pipe does. This kind of “engineered seepage” serves everybody’s (and the canal ecosystem’s) interests with very little downside.

–Shotcrete and grout-filled-mattress style canal lining is durable, inexpensive (way cheaper than AID’s outlandish cost claims in their E.A.) and they’re aesthetically pleasing. They’re already used in many spots on the Arnold canal.

–These techniques can be applied by local providers, improving our local economy.–They’re time-tested! Arnold Canal’s test segments of these lining styles between China Hat Rd. and Highway 97 have been in place for 30-years, are cited as successes in canal lining studies worldwide and are still in great shape–but Arnold Irrigation District claims they’ve “failed.”

Why won’t Arnold talk about their plans for the flume? Because they think they can sneak it by you. Why won’t Arnold talk about canal lining? Because the big, lazy money comes with the pipe, period. They’ve even hired a so-called environmental consultant that pumps out Environmental Assessments and other pro-piping analyses like a puppy mill but partners with a 3.5-billion-dollar corporation in California that does…guess what? Installs the pipe they want to replace our canal with.

A Recap and Update from Save Arnold Canal

Dear Neighbors,

We’d like to present a bit of a recap of the recent milestones in the administrative process of the proposed Arnold Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization project and provide some pertinent information about what our opposition effort has planned going forward.

We, like most of you, were made aware of the District’s plan to pipe 13-miles of the main canal over two years ago and attended the first public meeting at Elk Meadow Elementary school where we were introduced to AID’s environmental consultant Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA) and treated to their lip service and question-dodging skills for the first time. We, like many of you, submitted our public comments to the Preliminary Investigative Report on the proposed plan and then heard nothing more about it for two years until AID’s draft Environmental Proposal was published on June 8, 2021.

Upon reading the draft EA a few important concerns became apparent and remain so: 1-our public comments had been largely dismissed; 2-costs to property owners caused by the pipe project (reduced property values, loss of trees & vegetation, impacts to wells and impacts to wildlife) were ignored; 3-other viable alternatives to piping were summarily dismissed or were simply not explored; 4-the plan’s treatment of the flume portion of the canal offends the legal protections of the federal Wild and Scenic River Act and Oregon Scenic Waterway Act.

On June 23, many of us attended a public comment Zoom meeting hosted by AID and FCA to address questions and discuss concerns of the proposed pipeline. The results were in line with previous interactions with AID and FCA in that their answers were vague or misleading. It was clear that while not guaranteed to make a difference, our submittal of as many public comments of opposition as possible would be our next best step in opposing this plan. A few of us requested and received an extension to the public comment period, which pushed it out to July 23, 2021.

As a testament to all your efforts in this public comment outreach endeavor, follow-up with the FCA and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who oversees this administrative process and controls the federal purse strings for the proposed project, has revealed that over 400 public comments were received. Gary Diridoni of the NRCS said that while it usually takes two to three months to analyze public comments for a draft EA, he estimated that the analysis phase for this EA “…Could take three to six months because we’ve never had this many public comments before.” Good work everyone.

We are now in the interim period between public comment and a decision that will be made by NRCS about how the project will move forward or not. The likely possible decisions that could be rendered are: 1-AID and FCA are directed to revise the draft EA and re-submit it for another round of public comment (the revisions could include changes to the flume plan and/or exploration of alternatives other than piping); 2-AID and FCA are directed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is essentially an EA on steroids that must take a deeper dive into the concerns specified in our public comments (this process could take up to 4-years according to NRCS); 3-NRCS issues a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which green-lights the project as defined in the EA for commencement into further design and implementation.

Decisions 1 or 2, above, would be “wins” for our opposition movement as they force some degree of change to the plan as it stands now, and might open the door for collaborative solutions that help solve the challenges of maintaining water levels in the upper Deschutes for threatened and endangered species habitat and ensuring farmers have water for crops–without the extreme costs of piping.

Decision 3, above, would be a failure of our efforts to change the trajectory of the current proposal, but this final judgement on the part of the NRCS would also serve as the procedural trigger for any lawsuits to be filed against NRCS initially and subsequently filed against AID. There is no opportunity for legal action against these entities until a decision of FONSI is made.

Our group, Save Arnold Canal, has been meeting regularly and working in partnership with the Papé family team to promote thoughtful media coverage of the issue and explore our options for possible collaboration with the AID board of directors to enable a change in tack. The family, who own several parcels that touch the main canal totaling roughly 200 acres, have been involved in this issue for two years, and their concerns about this flawed plan are the same as all of ours.

Save Arnold Canal is currently evolving into a legally formed nonprofit organization and is working toward transferring the legal representation of Brian Sheets (BRS Legal, Ontario, OR https://brs.legal/) from individuals in the group to representation of the whole Save Arnold Canal group. He has been involved since late June and has represented clients in a similar situation to preserve the Pilot Butte Canal in the Central Oregon Irrigation District where they were successful in stopping piping. We are preparing for litigation in the case of a FONSI decision.

We will have details soon for how those of you who will be directly impacted by this proposed piping project and who oppose it can get involved as a supporter of this action. What has been shown to be important in cases like these are large numbers of individuals who are invested in the process, rather than folks who may be opposed but remain sitting on the sidelines. Our goal will be to make registration for support of Save Arnold Canal’s mission and legal representation low-cost and simple so that we can create as much impact in our favor as possible.

In the meantime, we are focused on educating as many of our friends and associates about this complex issue as possible. A few of the important things to know are:

Water that seeps into the groundwater from the canal sustains an ecosystem and wells (over 500)…it’s not all bad

There are less costly ways than piping to reduce seepage to protect Deschutes habitat and help farmers

This plan will not ensure better drought resistance for irrigators in Arnold Irrigation District nor improve their water delivery over what they have now

If you’re interested to learn more about the proposed project and what should be done instead of piping the Arnold Irrigation District main canal, check out the website www.savearnoldcanal.org and feel free to send any questions or comments to us at savearnoldcanal@gmail.com.


The founding members of Save Arnold Canal

Bill Calder, Rhonda Coleman & Ralph Emerson, Liz & Mark Elling, Carol Guptail, Alan Keyes, Geoff Reynolds, Deb & Jerry Rudloff, Ruby Swanson, Rosalina Wong